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In William I.’s Charter the laws and customs of Edward the Confessor were confirmed. This was perhaps all that the citizens wanted at the time, but after a lapse of sixty years they desired a more explicit definition of their laws and liberties, and obtained it from Henry I. In his Charter the rights conferred by the Conqueror are not recited — probably they were taken as a matter of course — but for the rest, the citizens obtained all that they could reasonably ask or obtain by purchase. In one respect only was their freedom limited: the King reserved to himself the right of taxation, and in a medieval kingdom this was only to be expected. The City was encouraged to grow strong and wealthy, and the king might take its money freely for himself.
Among the more important points of this Charter may be noted the freedom of toll to assist the development of trade; the permission to refuse lodging to the King’s household; the right of the citizens to appoint their own Justiciar; and the grant that they should not plead without the City walls, obviating the necessity of following the
King’s Court in its travels. Altogether, this is a most important Charter, both on account of the privileges it grants, and the light it throws on the government of the City.
Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, to the archbishop of Canterbury, and to the bishops and abbots, earls and barons, justices and sheriffs, and to all his faithful subjects of England, French and English, greeting.
Know ye that I have granted to my citizens of London, to hold Middlesex to farm for three hundred pounds, upon accompt to them and their heirs; so that the said citizens shall place as sheriff whom they will of themselves; and shall place whomsoever, or such a one as they will of themselves, for keeping of the pleas of the crown, and of the pleadings of the same, and none other shall be justice over the same men of London; and the citizens of London shall not plead without the walls of London for any plea. And be they free from scot and lot and danegeld, and of all murder; and none of them shall wage battle. And if any one of the citizens shall be impleaded concerning the pleas of the crown, the man of London shall discharge himself by his oath, which shall be adjudged within the city; and none shall lodge within the walls, neither of my household, nor any other, nor lodging delivered by force.
And all the men of London shall be quit and free, and all their goods, throughout England, and the ports of the sea, of and from all toll and passage and lestage, and all other customs; and the churches and barons and citizens shall and may peaceably and quietly have and hold their sokes with all their customs, so that strangers that shall be lodged in the sokes shall give custom to none but to him to whom the soke appertains, or to his officer, whom he shall there put: And a man of London shall not be adjudged in amerciaments of money but of one hundred shillings (I speak of the pleas which appertain to money); and further there shall be no more miskenning in the hustings, nor in the folkmote, nor in any other pleas within the city, and the hustings may sit once in a week, that is to say on Monday: And I will cause my citizens to have their lands, 10 promises, bonds and debts, within the city and withou; and I will do them right by the law of the city, of the lands of which they shall complain to :
And if any shall take toll or custom of any citizen of London, the citizens of London in the city shall take of the borough or town, where toll or custom was so taken, so much as the man of London gave for toll, and as he received damage thereby: And all debtors, which do owe debts to the citizens of London, shall pay them in London, or else discharge themselves in London, that they owe none; but, if they will not pay the same, neither come to clear themselves that they owe none, the citizens of London, to whom the debts shall be due, may take their goods in the city of London, of the borough or town, or of the country wherein he remains who shall owe the debt: And the citizens of London may have their chaces to hunt, as well and fully as their ancestors have had, that is to say, in Chiltre, and in Middlesex and Surrey.
Witness the bishop of Winchester, and Robert son of Richier, and Hugh Bygot, and Alured of Toteneys, and William of Alba-spina and Hubert the king’s Chamberlain, and William de Montfishet, and Hangulf de Taney, and John Bellet, and Robert son of Siward. At Westminster.